Monday, 19 May 2008

tea time

Russian Comfrey (variety Bocking 14) is the plant that is synonymous with the father of the British organic gardening movement: Lawrence Hills.

This sterile hybrid is a perennial plant that sends down a long tap root and provides, in its foliage, a wonderful source of plant food for the organic gardener. Hills lauded the qualities of comfrey 'tea' - a noxious and powerful stew of comfrey leaves steeped in water. An excellent source of potash, diluted the liquid makes a perfect feed for flowering plants.

Hills pointed out that comfrey leaves have the same chemical make up as potato fertiliser and recommended their use to line potato trenches as potatoes are planted.

Hills was my gardening guru, but he was probably a writer rather than a doer. Gardeners who use comfrey will know that potatoes are planted a month before comfrey begins to grow. Comfrey leaves are not available when potatoes are planted.

Our comfrey was standing tall at the weekend and ready to have its first cut. The leaves were chopped off at the base using the serated dataree (or dachti), chopped small and then used as a potato mulch.

Hills did not say that the flowers of this useful plant are subtle and beautiful.

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